When solutioning start at a high level.
Create user stories. As a <Persona> I want to <Outcome>.
Define acceptance criteria for more specifically what defines the story as complete.
Then, break each of these acceptance criteria into specific requirements.
Under those requirements define procedural development action items.
Think about the solutioning process as an information funnel in a high level to a lower level. You can go through these steps as you develop but you’ll be able to think more holistically if you design first then build. Additionally, you may be able to find other developers to support you should it be required.
Troubleshooting or requirements gathering proceeds solutioning. Don’t solution before you have the problem or client needs documented in as specifically as possible. Ask all the questions you can because once you realize you need to go back and get requirements again you may have wasted a lot of time. Further, if you hire on developers with incomplete or incorrect requirements then you may have wasted investment too. Therefore, take as much time as you need during the analysis phase and don’t rush the process.
At the end of the requirements process be sure to check back with your client or potential prospect before proceeding onto solutioning.
I use dictation software to create solutioning artifacts. This helps me to stay focused and be more efficient. Additionally, when I speak out loud and refine my thoughts it seems to stick in my head better. That way I am internalizing the solution; a result that makes it difficult to forget. In conjunction, while speaking out loud I start to notice patterns and make my designs better. When I run into a similar requirement in the future I have developed an intuition around the solution and as a result of that intuition I am able to build on my design with each iteration.
Using software like Jira or Rally are best but if you’re just starting out you may not have the budget to purchase. Therefore, word documents and excel spreadsheets can work just as well initially. Use the spreadsheet to link the user stories, requirements, and build steps together. Then use word documents to brainstorm and add design details. I’d suggest using google drive where you can add URLs to spreadsheet items to the google docs. That way you can more efficiently access your design details.
Once you’ve got a sufficient solution then get to work building!